Relationships: Stay together forever or break up. But hey, no pressure.
When I was younger, the concept of forever seemed simultaneously impossible and finite. When I got married, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I probably would not be married to this person forever (I was right) but at 25, 10, or 15 years seems like a forever, so you give it a go.
At 35, the concept of forever seems vaster and much more uncertain. Perhaps this because in our early 20s we have a great many goals and accomplishments to check off the list, to fill up the first part of that sweet unknown: college, marriage, children, buying a house, making in-roads in your career of choice, travel. Truth is, that by the time you hit your mid-30s, chances are you’ve checked off a great deal of those goals, and perhaps you find yourself too thwarted, to content, or simply too tired try and recapture that sweet freshness life held a decade prior.
Inevitably, if you’re single in your 30s, you probably carry some emotional baggage. It doesn’t matter what happened: a divorce, a breakup, the death of a partner, a fear of commitment, wanderlust, a penchant for being married to a job- take your pick.
No one comes out of this life alive, and if you find yourself partner-less at the second stage in life, the one where middle-age is peeking over the horizon, the thought of embarking on the quest for a real and lasting relationship, especially with the knowledge that we’re all damaged, can be utterly exhausting.
The only constant we have in life though, is change. At almost 35, I am not as starry-eyed and idealistic as I was at 25. Much of me has remained the same- my love of books and jokes and food and friends, just to name a few- but other parts have grown, adapted and changed. This has happened through the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve formed. Some of it is surface, as small as setting aside my stubborn opinions about football, for example, and trying to see what all the fuss was about. Some of it is much deeper, like taking a hard look at where I stand politically, and then looking at some of my more conservative (or liberal, having grown up in Northern California) friends and family members that I may have judged harshly in my youth and re-evaluating their opinions and beliefs with open ears, a more open mind and a more open dialogue.
Part of this growth though, also comes from knowing oneself, and knowing ones strengths and weaknesses.
Most of them I try to work on, and improve. Some of them I’ve discovered only through friendships and relationships. Some of them I’ve accepted as fact about myself, and rather than try to change them, I try to manage them (anxiety anyone?). I wish to be an ever-evolving human, who always does her best to present her best self to the world.
I do well in a relationship, for the most part. I am calmer and more centered, being a person who does well with a routine, and I have always found it easier to stick to a routine when I’m in a committed relationship. It feeds my soul to help build someone up, support their dreams, to break bread in the evenings, to feel the release of serotonin and oxytocin when we fall asleep at night
Forever though- forever frightens me. I find myself unable to meet a new person, in a romantic sense, without wondering what the expiration date on our interaction will be. The only way I could foresee a forever with someone is if they are willing to grow with me. If they are willing to do the same work that I make myself do- and as I stated earlier, if you’re in your 30s, and single, there’s some work to be done- then I could see the possibility of a forever. To date, none of these relationships have lasted the long haul, because at some point, the person I am with grows in a completely different direction, or stops growing entirely, choosing to stagnate and repeat bad habits. We live in a culture isolated by technology that feeds into narcissism, and more and more I see people who ‘work’ on themselves- by clogging up social media feeds with solo travel, perfectly posed yoga photos, and read captions of such overblown self-promotion that it makes the concept of self-confidence akin to a something like humility.
It is a culture of ‘Me’, and I thrive best in a culture of ‘We’.